A police officer gives a speech at an event in San Francisco's Chinatown to commemorate 17 years of community crimefighting efforts, Jan. 15. (File photo/CNS)
A number of corrupt Chinese officials have escaped to the United States and only a few have been extradited back to China due to the differences between the two countries' judicial systems and concepts of human rights, reports Huanqiu, the website of China's nationalistic tabloid Global Times.
Media outlets in the US have said that Beijing has compiled a list of over 1,000 corrupt officials currently in hiding in the US and has sent it to Washington. However, due to a lack of an extradition treaty between the two sides and lengthy and complicated legal procedures, only two officials have been extradited back to China to face justice over the past ten years.
The current situation has spurred an increasing number of corrupt officials to escape to the US, which has also led to capital flowing out of China, Huanqiu said. Meanwhile, the number may also increase as the Chinese government continues to push its nationwide campaign to root out official corruption.
Beijing encourages domestic businesses to invest in foreign countries and some Chinese nationals have exploited the trend by exporting cargo worth 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million), selling it for 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) and keeping the profits in overseas accounts. Around 500 billion yuan (US$80 billion) is said to have flowed out of China illegally through similar means over the past five years, said Liao Ran, a senior coordinator of the Asia and Pacific department at Transparency International, a Berlin-based international corruption watchdog.
America's immigration policy has also contributed to the current situation, according to Huanqiu, adding that corrupt Chinese officials have been able to send their families to the US through the country's immigrant investor program. After the family members obtain US citizenship, they can apply for green cards for the officials, said California-based lawyer Deng Hong.
Some of the officials are using their massive wealth in China to take out loans after they arrive in the US. The measure bypasses China's US$50,000 limit on money transfer wires to foreign banks and is also a de facto form of money laundering, said Liao.
Even if Beijing knows that a corrupt official has escaped to the US, the chances of bringing the official back to China is still small since only the US Federal government and Interpol, not local police, have the jurisdiction to arrest the official.
In one such case, a senior official from a state-run enterprise was able to flee to Los Angeles with over 100 million yuan (US$16 million) and remained at large until finally obtaining a US citizenship, despite the Chinese public security department and procuratorate sending people to the city for him, said Shen Chunping, a lawyer in California. Shen added that the US government cannot extradite the officials if it cannot find any evidence of them being involved in criminal activities in the US.